Comedy troupe mines Asian American market

By Annie Nakao

Asian Americans funny?

You bet, says the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, which dubs itself the world's only Asian American skit comedy troupe.

"We've show we can be funny and offensive," said director Ron Muriera. "We're not the model minority you thought we were."

The Bay Area-based comedy team -- which performs Thrusday through Saturday at San Francisco State University's Knuth Hall -- prides itself on offering "funny stuff from a golden brown perspective."

Its members -- Japanese, Korean, Thai and Filipino -- are an eclectic group of American-bred actors, comics, writeres and even computer specialists whose works are a mishmash of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," "In Living Color," "Saturday Night Live" and "Culture Clash."

With an Asian focus.

"There are an endless variety of subjects that you can touch upon and speak about as Asian Americans," said Michael Chih Ming Hornbuckle, veteran Asian American Theatre Company actor and one of the Warriors.

To Muriera, who had his own comedy group in the late 1970's and performed with the National Theater of the Deranged, the Warriors also explore roles and label that are often put on Asian Americans.

"But we're doing it with humor," he said.

That's not something mainstream America is used to.

"What we're trying to prove is that one, Asian Americans can write comedy and two, Asian Americans can be funny onstage," said Hornbuckle.

Aisan comic acts are still rare, even with comedian Margaret Cho's national recognition.

This is the first Warriors production outside AATC. A reincarnation of AATC's now-defunct Godzilla Theater, the new incarnatino emerged from Godzilla actor Greg Watanabe's efforts to form "Rough Edge Writers," which pens many of the skits.

And no subject is safe.

Past works include "Blaine Asakawa's Self-Defense Class for Japanese Nationals Traveling in the United States" and "Mr Diarrhea," about a lactose-intolerant girl visited by the incarnation of the Diarrhea spirit (many Asians are lactose-intolerant).

Among the current performance's skits are "The Famous Relatives Show," in which Yo-Yo Ma's less famous younger brother, Yo MaMa, promotes his latest rap album; "Bruce Can Cook," where Bruce Lee makes peanut chicken; and Warriors' cult classic skit, "A John Woo Family Dinner," featuring the gun-toting relatives of the Hong Kong director whose ultra-violent action films are said to have influenced American director Quentin Tarantino.

If manstream America finds Asian American humor new, so do Asian Americans themselves.

"Sometimes, the audience is very quiet -- like they don't know whether to laugh," said Muriera. "They might even be offended. Or they laugh and realize how silly stereotypes are."

[ From the Thursday, July 13, 1995 issue of San Francisco Examiner ]